COLERIDGE, LAMB, HAZLITT, AND THE READER OF DRAMA by Janet Ruth Heller

scanheller0001Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama (University of Missouri Press, 1990) is a re-evaluation of British drama criticism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Heller demonstrates that the British romantics’ bias against the staging of Shakespearean tragedy is rooted in an established and intellectually justifiable tradition in Western drama criticism. She also focuses on the misconception that the romantics were not interested in their readers. In fact, S. T. Coleridge, Charles Lamb, and William Hazlitt view the reader as an active participant in the process of interpreting literature, and they compare the reader’s imaginative powers to those of great writers. They feel that performance frustrates the audience by making it passive. Detailed analyses of selected texts illustrate the romantics’ interest in their own reading public and their attempts to broaden the reader’s imaginative and analytic powers. Coleridge, especially, sees himself as an educator, and his essays about education are closely related to his lectures on Shakespeare. The romantics design their essays and books to change readers and students by activating their minds. Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama demonstrates that the romantics and eighteenth-century writers such as Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, Alexander Pope, John Dryden, and Joseph Addison anticipate twentieth-century reader-response criticism, educational theory, and film criticism.

Heller has a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. She is a past president of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, and she is currently president of the Michigan College English Association. Her scholarly articles have appeared in many journals, including College English, Literature and Psychology, Women’s Studies, MidAmerica, Poetics, Language and Style, Twentieth Century Literature, Women and Language, Studies in American Jewish Literature, Edith Wharton Review, The Charles Lamb Bulletin, Concerning Poetry, Shakespeare Bulletin, PBSA, Style, The Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth-Century Prose, The Library Quarterly, Theatre Journal, International Journal of English and Education, and the anthology Between Anthropology and Literature: Interdisciplinary Discourse (Routledge, 2002).

Heller has published three poetry books: Exodus (WordTech Editions, 2014), Folk Concert: Changing Times (Anaphora Literary Press, 2012), and Traffic Stop (Finishing Line Press, 2011). Her fiction picture book about bullying for children, How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Arbordale, 2006), won a Book Sense Pick in 2006, a Children’s Choices selection for 2007, a Benjamin Franklin Award for 2007, and a Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for 2007. In 2009, How the Moon Regained Her Shape was one of five finalists for the Patricia Gallagher Picture Book Award given by the Oregon Reading Association.

Heller’s website is http://www.janetruthheller.com/ and the website for Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama is http://press.umsystem.edu/otherbooks/heller.htm The book is also available from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Coleridge-Lamb-Hazlitt-Reader-Drama/dp/0826207189 The ISBN-10 is 0826207189, and the ISBN-13 is 978-0826207180.

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